By: Johanna T. Wise and Andrew J. Masak

Welcome to the Wild West of paid sick leave laws in the United States.  Considering the nearly 41 million workers without access to paid leave, and with no federal coordination in sight, many states and localities have taken it upon themselves to enact their own legislation.  This has created a melee of sick leave laws that employers must now track.

As summarized by our fellow bloggers, the early adopters of paid sick leave laws have created an array of legislation with different requirements for, among other things: coverage, accrual, and usage.  Navigating these laws can cause headaches for employers and make it imperative that employers with existing operations in these localities review their sick leave policies closely to ensure compliance.  Moreover, employers considering opening up new facilities nationwide must be cognizant of this ever-changing, ever-more complicated area of the law.

In 2014 alone, four paid sick leave laws have newly become effective: Jersey City, NJ; New York City, NY; Newark, NJ; and Portland, OR.  What’s more, paid sick leave campaigns or legislation exist in Alaska, Arizona, California (for both the State and in the City of San Diego), Florida, Hawaii, Illinois (for both the State and in the City of Chicago), Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington (for both the State and the City of Tacoma), and Wisconsin.  As localities are increasingly kicking aside the tumbleweed and brandishing their weapons in this wild workplace environment, they are creating a veritable maze of rules and regulations for employers with nationwide operations.

In this untamed landscape of varying and increasing state and local laws, the Department of Labor has also joined the showdown.  On September 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and Employment Training Administration announced that it had awarded $500,000 to fund feasibility studies on paid leave laws in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Montana, and Rhode Island.  Specifically, according to the DOL’s news release:

The District of Columbia Department of Employment Services received $96,281 “to produce an economic impact analysis, financing and benefit models, and a cost-benefit study to assess the feasibility of enacting a paid family leave program;”

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards received $117,651 “to conduct research and develop a microsimulation model that will help the state estimate eligibility, take-up and benefit costs of a variety of proposed paid family and medical leave programs;”

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry received $124,651 “to research the feasibility and economic impact of creating a state paid family leave program — including providing financing, eligibility and benefit recommendations — and to conduct public opinion research for communications and implementation purposes;” and

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training received $161,417 “to determine the effectiveness of the Rhode Island Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program and its benefits for Rhode Islanders, as well as the public’s awareness of the program.”

In response to this ever changing landscape of paid sick leave laws, employers are wise to review their current policies and consider how they will record and monitor employees’ hours for purposes of determining accruals and eligibility.  While the list of regulations employers face continues to increase and business considerations mount, one thing is certain: out on the range in the Wild West of paid sick leave laws, it’s still a very uncertain world.

For additional information on paid sick leave laws, contact the authors, any member of Seyfarth’s Absence Management and Accommodation Team, or your Seyfarth attorney.